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  • Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture: Could Agroecology Prevent Further Pandemics?

    Pathogens repeatedly are emerging from a global agrifood system rooted in inequality, labor exploitation, and unfettered extractivism by which communities are robbed of their natural and social resources. A crisis-prone economic system that prioritizes production for profit over meeting human needs and ecological preservation is organized around intense monocultural production that, along the way, allows the deadliest of diseases to emerge. The Pandemic Research for the People (PReP) focuses on how agriculture might be reimagined as the kind of community-wide intervention that could stop coronaviruses and other pathogens from emerging in the first place. We address how mainstream science supports the same political and economic systems that helped produce the pandemic. Then we introduce agroecology, an environmentalism of the peasantry, the poor, and indigenous, long in practice, that treats agriculture as a part of the ecology out of which humanity grows its food. Agroecology—a science, movement, and practice—combines ecological science, indigenous and peasant knowledges, and social movements for food and territorial sovereignty to achieve environmentally just food systems.

    Peasant- and indigenous-led agroecology is uniquely positioned to limit the spread of zoonotic viruses: Post-capitalist agroecology champions the indigenous and smallholders who protect agricultural biodiversity. A diverse agroecological matrix of farm plots, agroforestry, and grazing lands all embedded within a forest can conserve animal biodiversity in the landscape. Agricultural biodiversity can make it more difficult for zoonotic diseases to prevail. Such a mode of conservation also takes into account the economic and social conditions of people currently tending the land, rather than a conservation that uproots people to foster the private accumulation of capital.


    Contents: Introductory note / Globalized food systems, structural inequality, and COVID-19 / What is mutual aid? A COVID-19 Primer / Can agroecology stop COVID-21, -22, and -23? / Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture


    Moving Beyond Capitalist Agriculture is born out of the coordination between scholars and community organizers and it should be shared widely. The group behind it, the Pandemic Research for the People, is an expression of collective wisdom and necessary unease. In fact, organization and solidarity are two values to be cherished in this moment of multiple crises. COVID-19 is a neoliberal disease and agroecology that frees the land and people of greed and towards food sovereignty is the pathway out of this mess. — Saulo Araujo, US Friends of the Landless Workers Movement

    If you want to know more about the connections between racial capitalism, industrial agriculture, environmental destruction, and epidemics and pandemics, then this is a great place to start. But this pamphlet is more than just an analysis of the immense problems generated by capitalism. More importantly, this pamphlet represents an attempt to overcome this system and to develop revolutionary alternatives to it. Rather than falling into the tempting illusion of reform, the authors of these texts give invaluable insights into how we might support and develop revolutionary forms of agro-ecology that can sustain and reproduce life outside of the racial capitalist machine that is destroying it.” — Arturo Castillon, co-author, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising

    Increasingly threatening climate disaster coinciding with a pandemic has tragically illustrated that the world doesn’t have the luxury of dealing with one crisis at a time – and capitalist agriculture is at the root of both. The authors show convincingly that there is a better way: one that’s based on self-determination and building on human cooperation, not competition. This publication makes a strong case for agroecology as a crucial part of a future that puts people above profit; a future that assures people`s health by allowing planetary health to flourish. It will bring clarity to everyone trying to understand how the next pandemic could be averted whilst building a more just world — Vijoleta Gordeljević, Health economist and environmental health policy expert, People’s Health Movement.

  • Role of African People in World Development

    As African people most of us are brought up to believe many myths about ourselves. One of these is that we are poor because we never grew out of the dark ages. Another such myth is that we will always need European guidance because of our backwardness. Not only has there been a lot of research done within the last few decades disproving these myths but the constant forward and backward motions of various societies in the world proves that a new beginning is always “in the cards” when a forward-looking vision and a determined set of energies are released.

    However, to be properly understood, all this must be put into historical perspective. This is what the author has done: starting from the early days of Egypt down to present day Southern Africa, he has analysed the long journey from development to underdevelopment and back towards development. The fact that European/North American domination has played such a large part in influencing the direction of this path, this manuscript is about both the history of African and European people as well as an economic analysis of foreign domination.

    Given the extensive nature of this task the author has deliberately downplayed statistics as most of the empirical details stated are taken from the research work of reputable scholars, reference to which is constantly engendered, so that the reader could independently pursue the documentation of all aspects of the work.

    Frederick Engels, the classical socialist philosopher, reflecting on the nature of scientific thinking stated:

    The analysis of nature into its individual parts, the grouping of the different natural processes and objects into definite classes, the study of the internal anatomy of organic bodies in their manifold forms, these are the fundamental conditions of the gigantic stride of our knowledge of Nature… But this method of work has also left us as legacy, the habit of observing natural objects and processes in isolation, apart from the connection with the vast whole; of observing them in repose, not in motion; as constants, not as essential variables; in their death, not in their life.”[i]

    Most of the facts and events  have been documented in numerous scholarly writings. But one item of his concern is that most of these works have in one way or other fallen prey to Engels’s criticism, either on grounds of limited geography or of limited history (tackling only a short period). However, what is more usual for the more bourgeois–influenced scholars is to limit their scope to one or two of the arbitrarily imposed “disciplines” of Economics, Anthropology, Sociology, Political Science, Psychology, etc.

    Of course, it is understandable that the two types of limitations (geography and history) are not made without reason, as no one person could hope to cover a broad enough scope in a detailed and rigorous manner especially within easily readable limits. However, the need of scientists especially when covering as important a topic as the development process, to produce a work covering the broadest possible perspective.

    Given limited resources, the author has attempted to do just that – albeit in an introductory manner. It is his hope, however,  that more people start viewing development as a broad, holistic process and not just a phenomenon limited in space and time to economics or even political-economy. In this regard, the annual compilation of The Human Development Index by the UNDP whereby countries worldwide are ranked, not merely by GDP per capita – as is usually cited in classical bourgeois economics – but by Life expectancy, Fertility and Under-five Mortality Rates, Combined School Enrolment, Adult Literacy Rate, Urbanisation, and (generally) by a Human Poverty Index. This approach can only be viewed as a step in the right direction.

    An extra bonus for readers is that I have included quotes from a cross-section of classical scholars on the development process. Hence, readers can follow up on these references to further edify themselves.

    [i] Frederick Engels, Socialism: Utopian and Scientific (London: Swan Sonnenschein & Co., 1892), 406.

  • Abolitionist Agroecology, Food Sovereignty and Pandemic Prevention

    COVID-19 has exposed the racialized nature of food systems, but also potentially grants opportunities to build anew. Maywa Montenegro explores a series of breakdowns, from fractured supply chains to uncontrolled infection among essential food workers, among Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities scythed through by the virus along old grooves of race and class oppression.

    She traces the likely origins of COVID-19 to spillover sites forged by agroindustrial expansion into forested regions where pathogens spring free and infect humans. Industrial animal agriculture drives these ecological changes that incubate future outbreaks. Pandemics have their roots in the violent separation of communities from their territories, seeds, knowledge and wealth. Racism enables such theft as fundamental to capitalist expansion.

    To tackle pandemics and food injustices, Montenegro calls for an abolitionist agroecology. No anti-capitalist alternative can ignore the racism that is central to transnational food system. Scholars including Angela Davis, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Mariame Kaba have argued that although abolition is frequently seen as an oppositional strategy — to eradicate, for example, prisons and police — abolition is equally propositional. An abolitionist agroecology cracks open multiple possibilities that respond to the exigencies of a pandemic planet — there is no ‘normal’ to which we can safely return.

  • The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising

    There was nothing but darkness in the spring of 2020 as the Covid-19 pandemic raged and shut down the economy. But as right-wing protesters demanded an end to the lockdown, a much bigger social conflict was brewing under the surface. A rebellion exploded in Minneapolis in response to the brutal police murder of George Floyd in late May, during which a police station was overtaken and burned down. The uprising quickly spread across the United States as protesters looted downtown urban centers, set fire to cop cars, vandalized government buildings, and fought the police. The Black proletariat led the charge, but white, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous proletarians also joined the fight, demonstrating new possibilities for building alliances. While anti-police rebellions continued throughout the summer and fall, the uprising receded with the start of the winter. But this conflict is far from over.

    In an effort to think through the experience of the uprising and prepare for the great struggles that are coming, The Revolutionary Meaning of the George Floyd Uprising provides an in-depth analysis of what exactly happened during the 2020 uprising, its potentials, internal limits, and strategic implications.

  • Being human after 1492

    Richard Pithouse’s extraordinary overview of the what is means to be human after 1492:

    On 9 August 2014, Michael Brown, an unarmed black man, was shot dead by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The movement that grew out of the rebellion that followed inaugurated a new sequence in the struggle against racism in the United States. As with previous sequences in that struggle it quickly acquired an international dimension, including here in South Africa. One aspect of this international moment has been an urgent confrontation with the reality that what Césaire called ‘abstract equality’ does not, on its own, mark an end to the racialization of life.

    In the United States, and elsewhere, there is a sense that history is as present as it is past. Just over a decade ago, Baucom observed that “what-has-been is, cannot be undone, cannot cease to alter all the future-presents that flow out of it. Time does not pass or progress, it accumulates”. It is the sense that time accumulates into the present that has often led to the invocation of William Faulkner’s famous line from Requiem for a Nun in discussions about race: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

    The past does not merely haunt or shape the present via the enduring power of deep and impersonal structural forces. Across Europe, and in settler societies like Australia, Brazil and the United States, racism is an increasingly explicit and menacing presence at the centre of political and social life. White revanchism has rallied, often under demagogic leadership, to secure the racial order that emerged from the event of 1492. It has already resulted in Brexit in England, the impeachment of an elected President in Brazil and the election of a figure as grotesque as Trump in the United States.

    We will not be able to transcend the epoch that began in 1492 without a politics that can confront and defeat this revanchism. And we will not have transcended this epoch until “things, in the most materialistic meaning of the word” are, as Fanon insists, “restored to their proper places”. But the catastrophe from which we are all derived is not solely a matter of material dispossession and accumulation. As Michael Monahan argues, in conversation with Wynter, “the history of colonialism is also the history of the emergence of the idea of Europe and of Europeans, and . . . it is such ideas and cultural practices that inevitably shape our consciousness, conditioning what counts as normal and, ultimately, as rational”.

     

  • Struggling to be seen: The travails of Palestinian cinema

    The book explores the challenges Palestinian filmmakers confront to develop a cinema that gives expression to the national narrative. It is based on collaborative research involving Film Lab Palestine, Sheffield Palestine Cultural Exchange and Sheffield Hallam University. We explore the political, economic and cultural contexts that impact on Palestinian film production and some of the barriers encountered in profiling and screening Palestinian films, to shed light on the complex terrain that is traversed to sustain and develop a film industry and film culture in historic Palestine and beyond.

    Table of contents

    Image credits
    Introduction
    The struggle to develop a national cinema
    The experience of Filmlab Palestine
    Visualising the Palestinian past
    Roadblocks, borders and hostile environments
    The screening and reception of Palestinian films
    The Palestinian short film
    Conclusion
    Filmography
    Appendix 1: Cinema of the Palestinian Revolution
    Appendix 2: 70 Years of Nakba: Audience response
    Appendix 3: Love and Desire in Palestine: Audience response
    Appendix 4: Selection of leaflets from film screenings
    About the authors

    Praise for Struggling to be seen

    To so nimbly and elegantly traverse Palestinian time and space is itself a defiance of the occupation’s brutally enforced barriers. The authors’ unstintingly political examination of Palestinian cinema has much to offer both those in the know and readers new to this extraordinary body of work. — Kay Dickinson, Professor, Film Studies, Concordia University

    Working extensively through primary sources, conducting research and interviews across generations of Palestinian filmmakers, the authors offer the reader an ambitious and wide-ranging essay which charts the development of a national Palestinian cinema, from an historical and critical perspective. By exploring the constellation of political, social and aesthetic concerns that shape this cinema, this authors challenge us to rethink the stakes behind the contemporary development of a Palestinian cinema industry, its audience reception, in historic Palestine and beyond.— Samia Labidi, cultural programmer & artistic curator

    Illuminating and compelling, Struggling to be Seen lays bare the historical, enduring but also emerging (colonial and neocolonial) obstacles to the development of a film industry and film culture within the West Bank and Gaza. Though familiarly sobering (in its re-confirmation of the scale of injustice facing Palestinians), the book provides up-to-the-moment and an interdisciplinary account that provides rich, fresh terrain that reveals new and exciting progressions within Palestinian film culture. —Michele Aaron, Reader in Film and Television, University of Warwick, author of Death and the Moving Image: Ideology, Iconography and I (Edinburgh Univer- sity Press, 2014) Director, Screening Rights Film Festival.

    Struggling to be Seen is a must read for those who are interested in under- standing the multilayered challenges that face Palestinian cinematography from its production phase to its screening phase. The book is a short read which takes the readers through the different stages which shaped the Palestinian film making enterprise. Struggling to be Seen shows the restrictions that Palestinian filmmakers face from the initial stages to funding and screening. The authors tell a story of a people whose sense of self-reflection is suppressed by the Israeli oppressive machine which con- stantly works at erasing the Palestinian peoplehood, detaching it from its past.— Nahed Habiballah, Assistant Professor and member of the Board of Directors of Policy and Conflict Resolution Studies Center, Arab American University, Ramallah, Palestine

  • in, against, beyond, corona

    The corona crisis reveals what is wrong and toxic — in ourselves, in relation with others, and in relation with the rest of non-human nature. But we can also look for what is good and life-affirming. The authors argue that the future must be founded on ‘kindness, social solidarity and an appropriate scale of time’, a future that cherishes life and the connections that transcend borders. This pamphlet is a vital contribution to much needed reflections and discussion.

    This is a fabulous book. Usually a blurb or endorsement like this is supposed to enhance the book, but in this case the flow is in the other direction. For me it is a huge honour to be associated with it. Like many others, I have been trying for months to get my head around what is happening, trying to formulate my ideas, and then here it is, in these pages, so clear, so understanding, so challenging. How we now go on to shape the interconnectedness between people and between people and other forms of life will determine the future of humanity. The best, most sensitive, most realistic, strongest thing that I’ve read on the Corona Crisis. — John Holloway, Professor, Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, Autonomous University of Puebla, Mexico, and author of In, Against, and Beyond Capitalism:
    The San Francisco Lectures

    This pamphlet, part of Daraja Press’s Thinking Freedom Series, is written by Mark Butler with his colleagues at the Church Land Programme, a small independent non-profit organisation based in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa, that seek to distill learnings that emerge from the work of militants on the ground.

  • Fanon and the rationality of revolt

    We inhabit extraordinary times: times in which we are acutely aware of the intensity of what revolutionary thinker Frantz Fanon called “the glare of history’s floodlights.”  The velocity and scale at which the revolt against police murder that began in Minnesota after the death of George Floyd on May 25th and moved throughout the US, and then other parts of the world, was astonishing. It was impossible to predict, but then, in retrospect, it is George Floyd’s death becomes a nodal point: calling for action as well as rethinking and self-clarification. Thinking about this moment with the world revolutionary Frantz Fanon, we need to be aware of continuities and discontinuities — or, as he puts it, opacities — between the ages, his and ours. Fanon is always speaking to us, but often in ways we cannot hear. We have to work to listen to him and to understand the new contexts and meanings in relative opacity. It is this constant dialogue that helps illuminate the present and enable ongoing fidelity to Fanon’s call in the conclusion of The Wretched of the Earth the necessity to work out new concepts to confront one of Fanon’s greatest concerns, the betrayal of the revolutionary movement. In this pamphlet we consider how Fanon’s idea of liberation is connected with “the rationality of revolt.” The practice of engaging Fanon not only with revolt but with the reason or rationality of revolt connects with Fanon’s idea of how this liberated humanity is a product of a new consciousness of collectivity open to rethink everything.

  • Class, gender, race & colonialism: The ‘intersectionality’ of Marx – Thinking Freedom Pamphlet

    It is important to see both Marx’s brilliant generalisations about capitalist society and the very concrete ways in which he examined not only class, but also gender, race, and colonialism, and what today would be called the intersectionality of all of these. His underlying revolutionary humanism was the enemy of all forms of abstraction that denied the variety and multiplicity of human experience, especially as his vision extended outward from Western Europe. For these reasons, no thinker speaks to us today with such force and clarity.

    It is clear today that the emancipation of labour from capitalist alienation and exploitation is a task that still confronts us. Marx’s concept of the worker is not limited to European white males, but includes Irish and Black super-exploited and therefore doubly revolutionary workers, as well as women of all races and nations. But, his research and his concept of revolution go further, incorporating a wide range of agrarian non-capitalist societies of his time, from India to Russia and from Algeria to the Indigenous peoples of the Americas, often emphasising their gender relations. In his last, still partially unpublished writings, he turns his gaze Eastward and Southward. In these regions outside Western Europe, he finds important revolutionary possibilities among peasants and their ancient communistic social structures, even as these are being undermined by their formal subsumption under the rule of capital. In his last published text, he envisions an alliance between these non-working-class strata and the Western European working class.